At first glance, air ambulances – both planes and helicopters – may appear to be a costly investment. However, on closer inspection, the opposite is true: They save money and at the same time improve access to high-quality healthcare.
Bringing high quality healthcare to the greatest number of people is always a challenge but with a good air ambulance system we don’t need to build, staff, and maintain as many large, well-equipped, hospitals.
With a good fleet of air ambulances, even citizens who live in the furthermost corners of the nation can get access to advanced medical treatment with relatively little added cost.
Check out how hospitals in America like the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics use their air ambulance fleet to transport patients from more remote parts of the state and other states to their facility. This allows a single hospital to serve far more people.
Similarly, in Nigeria we have a state-of-the-art cancer centre at LUTH that cost over $10 million to build. Rather than building one of these in every state at a cost of $360 million, air ambulances can transport patients from across the country to this modern, well-staffed facility.
This benefits our healthcare system in another way. When we don’t have to spend large amounts of money to build, equip, and staff multiple advanced treatment facilities, it frees up funds we can invest in primary care, which is the most important part of our healthcare system. Good primary care improves the health for the most people and at the lowest cost per patient.
Air ambulances increase quality of healthcare
Air ambulances allow a higher volume of patients to be treated in a fewer number of specialist hospitals, which is far better for patients. Peer-reviewed articles in medical journals from around the world prove that the medical professionals who provide advanced services need to see a sufficient volume of patients to maintain their skills and knowledge. Decentralising these services lessen the effectiveness of our providers. More lives can be saved if advanced services are centralised in more specialist hospitals.
Air ambulances reduce hospital bills for patients
Economies of scale are factors that cause the average cost of producing something to fall as the volume of its output increase. –The Economist, 2008.
Hospitals that receive higher numbers of patients can perform procedures more efficiently and reduce costs, just like printers do. It doesn’t matter whether you are printing 100 copies or 1000 copies, initial startup costs and capital investments are the same. Spreading those costs over a greater number of copies – or in our case, patients – brings down the cost per individual.
The savings that hospitals make by seeing larger numbers of cases for the same procedure can then be passed onto patients.
Air ambulances help more patients to survive emergencies
When a patient experiences a medical emergency, every second counts. This is especially important in trauma cases such as car accidents and in medical emergencies like strokes and heart attacks.
If a patient can get to an advanced, not local, hospital within one hour (we call this the Golden Hour in medicine), the chances of survival are exponentially increased.
Air ambulances help avoid deaths due to poor roads/infrastructure
Many countries, particularly developing countries like Nigeria have a poor road infrastructure. Many roads are seasonal, some very difficult to drive on all year round, and others are often blocked by traffic jams. These issues make it impossible for thousands of patients to reach hospital within the “Golden Hour”.
An established fleet of air ambulances can easily solve this problem.